[PHOTO: Icon Sportswire]

Not everything in the Rules of Golf should be thought of as a negative or hindrance to your round. In fact, a little research in what you can and can’t do will often result in you thinking you just hacked the system.

Today’s topic: the double drop.

Smart golfers know that when taking relief from a condition (free relief or penalty relief), the nearest point might put your ball in yet another relief condition. And guess what? You get to drop again, likely even further away from the crappy lie your ball is currently in. A dreamy scenario might play out something like this:

You slice your ball through the fairway and over a cartpath into some fescue on the right side of the hole. The ball is buried and you would need a whipper-snipper to extricate it. Fortunately, because you’re a right-handed golfer and (logically) intend to play your next shot as a righty, you would have to stand on the cement path to hit out of the fescue. That means you could take free relief (it’s called “complete relief” now) from this condition (an immovable obstruction). Assuming the nearest point is on the fairway side of the path, you could drop there and play on without penalty. So you’ve already used the rules to your advantage in a big way.

But wait… there’s more.

Here’s where the double drop comes into play. On the left side of that cartpath is a drain, and that drain interferes with your ball, stance or swing when you take cartpath relief. Guess what? You get to drop again. This time, perhaps even closer to the short grass in a pretty tasty lie. So you just went from having to deal with a ball buried in fescue to it now being propped up in short rough – all of this without having to take a penalty.

Good stuff, right? And it’s perfectly within the rules.

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Granted, these situations are unusual, but they do happen. Sami Valimaki got to drop a good distance from where his tee shot came to rest on the 72nd hole of the PGA Tour’s Mexico Open at Vidanta in February. Now there was a penalty involved – although in-bounds, his ball was unplayable, resting against and underneath a fence that marked the course’s boundary. But because a cartpath was near the fence, Valimaki was able to play from the rough on the other side of the path (after taking the unplayable drop, he was able to get free relief from the cartpath). He even got to drop twice when taking the free relief from the cartpath because his first drop was not from knee height. Coincidentally, his second drop came to rest in a much better lie than the first. Again, fortuitous. Despite taking that unplayable lie penalty, he still ended up saving par on the 72nd hole to preserve his second-place finish in the tournament.

The key thing to remember here is that even though it might be obvious that your nearest point of complete relief puts your ball in a situation where you would need relief again, you still have to go through with the measuring and drop procedures. You can’t just skip it because you know, eventually, you’ll be dropping again in a different place. It takes a little time, for sure, but it’s necessary to go through the motions. And sometimes it actually works to your advantage.


What’s it called now? A quick refresher in rules terminology

When taking relief, when do I drop the ball and when should I place it?

My opponent is acting like a tool. Do the rules say anything about unsportsmanlike conduct?

Can I clean mud off my ball while playing a hole?

My ball’s in the water, and it’s on the move! What are my options?

My opponent looks like he’s whipper-snippering as he searches for a lost ball. When is that a penalty?

My ball is in bounds but an OB stake is interfering with my shot. Can I move the stake?

Can I be penalised for delaying play if I stop to get a hotdog or a drink?

When am I allowed to substitute a golf ball on the course?

I stopped my swing before hitting the ball. Does that count as a stroke?

I hit myself with my own ball. Embarrassment aside, is that a penalty?

What happens in a match when no one knows how to apply a rule?

My opponent stopped my ball from rolling on purpose. Is that a penalty?

While waiting to play a shot, my opponent is killing time by chipping a ball. Is this allowed?

My ball is in a penalty area, so what are my options for taking a drop?

Can I be penalised if someone else improves my lie?

Can you repair divot holes or pitch marks in your line before hitting a shot?

I just played the wrong ball. What do I do now?

What do I do if my ball just hit another ball on the green?

What do you do when the tee markers aren’t lined up or are missing?

Somebody just picked up my golf ball! Now what?

Crazy things that only happen in matchplay

Can you hit a provisional ball after hitting a shot into a penalty area?

Your club breaks, what are your options?

My opponent took a generous drop after hitting into a penalty area. Can he be DQ’d for that?

Can I use a long putter when measuring my relief area?

Our practice putting green sucks. Can I hit a few putts on the course before my round?

I had an extra club in my bag and I just teed off. Now what?

Can I move a stone if it improves my lie?

Are you smart enough to ace this basic rules quiz?

Do I get relief from aeration holes?

What does ‘known or virtually certain’ really mean?

Do you have to use a putter on the green?

You’re playing a Srixon. Two holes later it’s a Callaway. Is switching golf balls mid-round allowed?

I hit a horrible shot. I’m waaaaaay better off if I don’t find the ball. Can I just declare it lost?

I’m on the green, my opponent is not. Who’s away?

Is sneaking a peek in another player’s bag considered getting advice?

What do I do if my golf ball is stuck in a tree?

I conceded a putt. My opponent putted anyway and missed. Is that a penalty?

What is casual water and how do I play around it?

I thought my ball was lost and put another in play then found my first ball… which ball counts?

What happens if I can’t tell my provisional ball from my original?

What exactly is an embedded ball?

How do I find my ‘nearest point of relief’?

How long can I take to hit a shot?

Does a ball have to be unplayable to declare it unplayable?